Pamela Bilalova

Everest: The Last Word Belongs to the Mountain

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The heartbreaking real-life story of a disastrous Everest climbing comes to life in the film by Iceland director Baltasar Kormákur.

If you’ve ever wondered how much could a climbing expedition go wrong, if you want to see nature in all its glory and feel people’s helplessness against it, then you should try out Everest, the 2015 film based on a true story, starring Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley.

On a May morning in 1996 two expeditions set off to climb Everest. They are in the final stage of the ascent and even plan what time they will be back in the camp. However, the mountain has something different in store for them: a fierce storm catches them on the way back and that’s when the battle for their lives really begins.

Jason Clarke plays the responsible Rob Hall, a New Zealander, who established a profitable business by taking not very experienced climbers to the world’s highest peak and getting them safely back. Jake Gyllenhaal takes on his rival, the non-chalant American Scott Fischer.

However, you don’t see much of Gyllenhaal’s marvelous performance as the film fails to focus on a particular character. Instead, it concentrates on the never ceasing battle between men and nature and the human tragedy which unfolds during the catastrophic expedition.

As the characters get to the summit, you might be disappointed if you expect a breath-taking view: the beauty of the mountain was not fully captured in the film, with only a few shots making you realize its everlasting might.

What will leave you breathless, though, is the violent storm: its power pervades through the screen and will give you chills.

The actors managed to depict this human tragedy astonishingly well. Especially powerful are the scenes in the base camp, where Helen (Emily Watson), Rob’s business partner, keeps in touch with the men on the expedition and tries to find a way out of the situation.

One thing that doesn’t get quite clear from the film is why these people are trying to reach Everest. When asked at one point, they reply all together “Because it’s there!” However, this might not be a good enough reason. When pushed further they reveal their true motives: Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) admits challenges of this type help him escape the depression and apathy which follow him in everyday life; Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) wants to prove ordinary people can do extraordinary things and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) already has six of the highest peaks under her belt and needs Everest to complete the list.

The historic ascent in 1996, during which eight people lost their lives, was the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air’’.

Krakauer was part of the tragedy himself, as he was commissioned by “Outside” magazine to write an article about the climbing.

His character doesn’t receive much attention in the film, although the publicity his article would bring to the leaders of the expeditions certainly sparks even stronger rivalry between them, as Krakauer was supposed to be in Fischer’s expedition, but ended in Hole’s group instead.

Through telling the real story of the 1996 climbing disaster, Everest aims to show nature’s might and glory and explore the issue of turning a sacred place into a tourist destination. It serves as a powerful reminder of mankind’s helplessness against natural calamities, but it also celebrates human’s spirit and persistence to survive the severe conditions in the name of a greater goal.

Despite some of its flaws, Everest is not a film to miss – it will leave you breathless, shocked and thrilled.

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